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by Louise Wilson
29 October 2021
Protest policing ‘may well look quite messy’ says Scotland’s chief constable

PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Protest policing ‘may well look quite messy’ says Scotland’s chief constable

The chief constable of Police Scotland has said officers will respond “swiftly” and “robustly” to any protestors causing disruption to COP26 over the next two weeks.

Iain Livingstone said this will sometimes necessitate “physical engagement” which “may well look quite messy”.

But he insisted officers have been instructed to protect the rights of peaceful protestors to demonstrate.

Police officers have been sent to Scotland from all over the UK to support Police Scotland for the duration of COP, which is expected to see 25,000 people descend on Glasgow.

Around 10,000 officers a day will be deployed across the city. The entire Police Scotland force has 17,283 officers.

Livingstone said: “There’s an expectation and an encouragement of demonstrations or protest. Our response will be informed by, and consistent with, human rights considerations.

“Necessity, proportionality, lawfulness – these principles are vital in all that we do within policing in Scotland. They are what I expect everyone in Police Scotland, and from our colleagues who will be supporting us.

“We will protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest at COP26, balanced against the rights of the wider community.

“But to those intent on violent disorder and damage, to those who seek to disrupt the climate conference actually taking place, I have a clear message: we will respond swiftly and we will respond robustly.”

The chief constable was taking part in a pre-COP press briefing alongside the First Minister and Professor Jason Leitch.

Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland had a “proud tradition of activism and peaceful protest” but warned that “progress [at COP] will not be made if discussions are disrupted”.

Asked about Alok Sharma’s comments, in an exclusive interview with Holyrood, that the aim of COP was to “keep 1.5 alive”, Sturgeon said: “For COP26 to be a success, 1.5 degrees has to be kept alive and I back that. I would certainly love to be in position where we come out of COP with everything signed and sealed so that we know exactly how we’re getting to 1.5. I’m not sure that is going to be possible.”

Sharma also hinted that the outcome of COP26 may not be a ‘Glasgow Agreement’.

The First Minister said: “This COP is largely about doing what is required to deliver what was agreed in the Paris treaty. It’s not a COP that will deliver a treaty but there will be an agreement of sorts – well, I hope there will be an agreement – that all countries come together and endorse the things that need to be done to deliver on the outcome.”

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